& Jack’s Steak House
I’m in the mood for…love?
Sure, but what I’d really like for Valentine’s
Day is a fabulous dinner with my sweetheart. No prix-fixe
special menus, no “red rose for all the ladies”,
and please no heart-shaped tomato flan concoction. When
I think of having dinner with my boyfriend, I think of
our favorite foods and favorite places. Perhaps someplace
we haven’t been to in a while or a food we haven’t
indulged in since our last romantic celebration. For us,
every meal is about sharing. We order a little of this,
some of that, and often have dessert at home. Valentine’s
Day is nothing fancy, but it is all about us.
on Images for Captions
the carnivores that we are, a great steak restaurant is
always a treat. Ben & Jack’s Steak House
was created by brothers Ben and Jack Sinanaj and their
cousin Russ Sinanaj. The ensemble had previously
worked together at Peter Luger’s
for close to ten years before opening their dream restaurant.
This unique steak house is untraditional in its atmosphere,
yet traditional when it comes to the food. This is no
“men’s club” by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, the dining room is alive with (lots) women, couples,
and family and friends who have gathered for a good meal.
Loosen up the tie, as this place is casual, lively, and
elegant, yet not pretentious. Charming floral cushion
high-back chairs, comforting rich mahogany tones, vibrant
red carpet, and glass-paneled partitions adorn the dining
are looked after by Ben & Jack’s
gracious team. While enjoying our 2004 Robert Mondavi
Pinot Noir, we peruse the menu. But, why? We know
what we want, we’ve been craving it all day, just
about everything on the menu that states “for 2”
begin with the soon-to-be-famous Ben & Jack salad
comprised of chopped shrimp, tomato, onion, and warm thick
bacon chunks. Everything was so fresh with lots of contrasting
flavors that the Ben & Jack sauce that was meant to
go with it went untouched. An icy cold seafood platter
had us at “hello” – a 1 pound split
lobster, 4 meaty shrimp, and jumbo lump crab meat were
all fresh, sweet, and delicious. Simple things done right
are the best.
comes the weaponry, we know our steak is set to arrive.
And so it does, on a sizzling platter, with its juices
swishing about. Cut tableside, our 44 oz Porterhouse
(sirloin and tenderloin) is perfectly cooked and tender
with that wonderful char covering it. We opted for the
creamed spinach and sautéed mushrooms with onions,
and a large baked potato, which we enthusiastically smothered
with butter. Boy, was that good! Sometimes you just gotta
have it. Like this entire meal, we had to have it.
Great Choices for Dim Sum
Good Chinese dim sum is
a delicacy and is a style of food that means to be shared.
While there are numerous Chinese restaurants serving dumplings,
spring rolls, and the like, a true dim sum experience,
push cart and all, is best experienced in the heart of
China Town on Manhattan’s lower East side. Dim sum,
a peasant food served primarily for breakfast, brunch
or lunch, consists of over 100 “finger foods”
served off pushcarts that make their way through oversized
dining rooms filled with large groups of people, often
sitting for hours at a time while picking on various dim
sum varieties. True to form, many dim sum items are either
steamed in bamboo or deep-fried. If you are one of those
who enjoy ordering off of the left side (appetizers) of
a Chinese menu, you will most likely love the dim sum
experience. Pushcart upon pushcart wheel by with tantalizing
morsels such as:
Shrimp Dumplings (har gow) – shrimp filling,
wrapped in translucent rice-flour skin in a half-moon
Steamed Barbeque Pork Buns (char siu bau) –fluffy
white rice flour buns filled with sweet pork meat.
Sweet Silken Tofu (dau fu fa) – fresh silken
tofu served warm with a sweet syrup, often for dessert.
Fried Turnip Cakes (lo bak gao) – mashed
turnip cake with dried shrimp and pork, served with oyster
Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce (pai gwat) –
bite size spare ribs marinated and steamed in black bean
popular dim sum dining rooms are the modern Golden
Bridge Restaurant, and the more traditional neighborhood
gathering place, Jing Song. Jing
Song seats over 1,000 people and is often used
for large Chinese banquette dinners and weddings. The
ornate décor consists of large chandeliers, golden
dragons, red velvet, and walls strewn with messages of
wealth, proseprity, and longevity. Golden Bridge,
however, is a more modern interpretation, with large flat
screen TV’s about, and a split dining room which
can accomodate banquettes for well over 1,500 people –
often serving dim sum to over 5,000 people on the weekend.
With 4,000 square feet of kitchen space, and crowds that
size, that’s an awful lot of pork buns!
20 Elizabeth Street at Canal Street
New York (212) 964-5256
As a food writer I am admittedly
spoiled when it comes to partaking in tasting menus. We
love lingering over course after course, paired with this
wine and that. Fortunately, this style of dining is no
longer just for us lucky writers. English is Italian
was introduced to us by some friends who brought us there
for a three-hour lunch! This Italian style restaurant
concept is designed around three courses: antipasti, pasta,
and fish and meat. The beauty of it all is the fresh,
daily changing menu, multiple dishes per course, the combination
of contemporary and classic preparations, and its stylish
décor and great service. The bi-level interior
is sleek and sexy. The display kitchen is not overpowering
to the room and there’s a peacefulness that allows
you to melt into your surroundings.
this is a Todd English restaurant, it is Executive
Chef Robert Gonsalves and Chef Isaac Carter
that lead the kitchen with precision and creativity. There
is an option for two courses ($34), but we went for the
three courses ($39). Crispy crostini bread with chicken
liver pate, carrot tapenade, and artichoke guacamole
set the stage for the night. A series of “insalata"
dishes (eggplant caponata, braised fennel, and roasted
beets) are scooped onto your plate alongside plates
of antipasti which included a torte rustica (think
Easter pie minus the prosciutto) with pear salad,
delectable lamb ribs with green olive and
goat cheese creama, and deep fried mushroom
arancini (rice balls) with Calabrese aioli.
All were tasty and rather decadent. For a special surprise
for your loved one, I recommend ordering the house made
buffalo mozzarella, prepared (and pulled) tableside
and topped with sautéed sun dried tomatoes,
garlic, and basil.
is the pasta course. Baked Bolognese lasagna
was very good but I’m glad I saved room for the
broccoli rabe risotto with calamari fra diavalo
and chickpea cream. It was a mouthwatering combination.
Butternut squash agnolotti with brown butter
and sage was feather light and silky, and the
carbonara tagliatelle with mushrooms
and peas had a wonderful woodsy flavor, well
reserved from the mushrooms. We forged ahead with the
third course (after a small breather – also known
as wine) with pan-seared salmon with crispy
skin topped with apple butter. “Forty
clove chicken” was simply baked like my Mom’s,
and the braised fall-off-the-bone lamb shanks
were served with a spicy cabbage slaw. Refreshing
homemade Gelato and sorbets are a perfect
ending as anything more is overkill. Word to the wise:
You’ll be tempted to eat it all, but don’t.
Meet your sweetheart at the fridge at midnight for leftovers…
the brainchild of New York City food guru Eli Zabar,
has given birth to a self-serve café by day and
wine bar by night, adjacent to Eli’s Manhattan,
his famous gourmet market. Chef Scott Bieber
creates flavor-driven New American menus that change frequently
and incorporate Eli’s world of the finest and freshest
produce, seafood, and meat available to him. A small plate
menu offers dinners a chance to experience many different
flavors and pair them with a rotating selection of 30
wines served in both tasting servings and by the glass.
spicy mussels with Italian sausage, pizzetta with
red onion, figs and blue cheese, swordfish pillard
with salsa verde, and even Eli’s toasted
cheese and tomato sandwich come with intriguing wine
recommendations. The ever-changing dinner menu highlights
the best market fresh items such as wild salmon
with roasted root vegetables, Stone Church Farm poussin
with soft polenta and collard greens, and roasted
whole branzine with asparagus and grapefruit
tapenade. A cheese cart of twenty or so perfectly
ripened cheeses is also a real treat for those experimenting
with the many wines by the glass.
dinners and other special wine-focused events are part
of what makes this restaurant a special experience.